Twelve hours after the first reports of a horrific friendly fire incident along the Pakistan border, the question What really happened? remains largely unanswered, but tidbits are beginning to emerge. In the early hours one news source, the UK’s Guardian newspapers, was alone in reporting that NATO forces had fired in response to incoming fire from the vicinity of the Pakistani bases. While most media outlets continue to focus on the political implications and US mea culpa efforts to pacify the angry Pakistanis, a second thread of reporting is beginning to emerge which is starting to shed at least some light on the “What really happened?” question.
Citing Afghan sources, the Wall Street Journal and a few others are now beginning to report that the incident occurred when a joint force of Afghan and US military conducting operations against suspected Taliban positions at night came under fire from the Pakistani border compounds. The Pakistani’s reacted angrily to this version of events, saying in a statement: “No first fire came from Pakistani positions.” The Pakistani’s also questioned the proportionality of any such response, citing the fact that NATO engaged in a two hour systematic bombardment against a known Pakistani installation.
Meanwhile, thousands gathered outside the United States (US) consulate in Karachi on Sunday to protest against the cross-border air attack. The angry crowd shouted “Down with America”. One young man climbed on the wall surrounding the heavily fortified compound and attached a Pakistani flag to barbed wire.
The most detailed (but unverified at this point) account of what happened as seen from the Pakistani perspective comes from the Islamic outlet grandstrategy.com:
Midnight, on the 26th of November, a Pakistan Army post, manned by soldiers from the Azad Kashmir Regiment, detected movement in a valley below and adjacent to their check-post. The checkpoint is 2 km inside Pakistani territory and located on high ground. After identifying the movement as armed individuals via night vision devices, spot light and flares, the soldiers opened fire. Shortly, they came under attack of an AH-64 Apache helicopter, resulting in the loss of 19 lives.
Gleaning from the ISAF press release, it seems that these unidentified individuals were US soldiers infiltrating well into Pakistani territory, without any prior notice to Pakistani counterparts. Furthermore, there is no official operation indicated by the occupation forces, so this was likely a classified operation. The Pakistanis have given coordinates of all Pakistani posts / bases in the region and, given the GPS and other navigation devices available to NATO, it is impossible that the occupation forces did not know that they were: 1) inside Pakistani territory and 2) where this base was located.
This leads to the conclusion that at some point in the past, the US military has received permission to expand the war into Pakistan and to “increase the heat temperature” so to speak.
Continuing with our narrative, the attacked troops called regional command for help, and a quick reaction force was send to aid them. These were then attacked by A-10s of the occupation forces. The battle lasted for at least an hour and resulted in the death of not only the Pakistani forces engaged but also those asleep in the compound. Total death toll stands at 24-28.
Given that the battle lasted that long and that US forces have both coordinates and high tech equipment to note their position, and being aware of the location of the Pakistani base 2km inside Pakistani territory, the attack is obviously deliberate. Given both that the A-10s, which are USAF assets and AH-64s (Army / Marine) assets were involved, this was a predetermined operation aimed, coldly calculated to have specific objects.
An educated guess of those objectives are as follows. The United States want to destabilize Pakistan or to directly confront her. Their supply is well stocked for the winter and they have developed alternative routes to Afghanistan. They now wish to create political space to go into Pakistan. A destabilized Pakistan would allow them this opportunity.
At present, the mood within the Pakistan Army, particularly junior / mid-tier officer ranks would lend credence to the possibility that the US may have achieved its objective. What the rank and file want is a punitive punishment of the US. Kayani cannot accomplish this without losing military procurements and showing that the political establishment has no effective power. On the other hand, if he does not react appropriately, he loses face with his men who are on the verge of a mutiny. This is thus a lose-lose situation for Pakistan and a win-win scenario for the US.
Any Pakistanis reading this would be sincerely advised to calm down, there will be enough time to return the favor to the Americans, insh’Allah. Do not act in haste, do not lose your discipline. Actions should not be taken in haste, calm down, relax. We shall deal with them insh’Allah in a time and location of our choosing and not theirs.